Canals always bring out the nostalgic in me. As a child, our family holidays were spent travelling the canals of England. I only have to see one brightly painted canal boat puttering along the waterways to come over all happy and smiley. So a recent trip to Lancaster to give a presentation about blogging to the Outdoors Writers and Photographers Guild also found me seeking out the nearby canal.
What is fantastic about canals is their proximity to urban life. The canals were originally built as a clever transportation system in the burgeoning industrial era to carry goods between towns and cities. And so, today, the network of waterways are located in close proximity to the places where most people live.
While I am happy where I live in Scotland, if I ever move to England it would need to be close to a canal. In my opinion, the canals offer an amazing place of natural wonder yet without being too far from civilisation.
The wander along the Lancaster Canal from the Lancaster House Hotel towards Lancaster itself provided a delightful chill out after a day of talking and chatting with freelance writers and photographers. So close to the main roads yet so peaceful, the Lancaster Canal is an amazing place to come to recharge batteries. You can also burn off calories cycling or running along this traffic-free towpath – and when I was there many local people were doing just that.
The hidden gem of a walkway, framed by high-rise trees, offers opportunities to see wildlife, such as kingfishers. The smell of wild flowers as they soaked up the spring sunshine was spirit lifting. But it was the joy of being able to wave to the canal boats and their captains as they sailed by that really had me grinning, and enjoying the memories of fun childhood holidays.
Over the years as a child and into my early 20s, my family covered many, many miles of the English canals network. As an adult I have also taken my own daughter on canal boating holidays and relished the chance to truly slow down and relax away from the normal hurly burly of life.
And whenever I’m close to a canal when travelling I always take the opportunity to slip away to walk or run along a towpath.
These days the Canal & River Trust in England and Wales and the Scottish Canals have mapped out many walking and cycling routes on this amazing traffic-free netowrk. They are perfect for families, too. Why not check out a route near you and head off this weekend for a bit of your own canalside chill-out?
Five great canal walks
Start/finish Bingley Rail Station
Lias pub car park
St Michael circular walk, Somerset
Distance: 5 miles/8km
Car Park in Creech St Michael
Distance 6 miles/10km
Start: Coventry Canal Basin
Distance: 9 miles/ 14.5km
Start: Falkirk High train station